Oil barrels

Oil prices declined today, as investors showed concerns while awaiting US corporate earnings, along with the anticipated Chinese trade data and results of a European Central Bank (ECB) policy meeting.

Brent crude slipped by three cents to $111.91 per barrel, while US crude dropped 11 cents at $93.04 a barrel, reported Reuters.

Investors are expecting US fourth-quarter corporate earnings to be higher than the dull results of the third quarter.

Based on the price movements, the US Energy Information Administration forecasted on Tuesday that oil production in the country will increase by the biggest margin on record in 2013, and will rise by a quarter over two years.

Furthermore, oil markets were influenced as expectations went up among investors that policymakers of the ECB and Bank of England will take a positive decision, when their two-day meeting begins today, on an interest rate reduction in 2013 to pull the regional economy out of recession.

Being the world’s biggest energy consumer and second top oil consumer, the predictions over the outcome of China’s data, expected on Thursday, followed by fourth-quarter economic growth numbers on 18 January, are also keeping investors’ fingers crossed.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said crude stocks gained 2.4 million barrels last week, surpassing analysts’ predictions of a 1.5 million barrel rise, thereby adding pressure on oil markets.

API attributed the huge jump to a 1.2 million barrel per day increase in crude imports.

Analysts expect Brent to average at $115 per barrel and US crude to average $100 per barrel in the second half of 2013.

Image: China, the world’s main energy consumer, will issue its December trade figures on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Lars Christopher Nøttaasen.